Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Cutting off your nose to ...

Let's talk nose jobs. As you might expect from my photo over there on the left, I find that -- just occasionally -- people try and offer a new nose joke, one that perhaps that Edmond Rostand's character Cyrano (on the right) might have missed. They always fail. Apparently David Slack gets the same jokes, but he's about to go under the knife to remove the world of some much-needed humour. You have only two more days to take the piss out of his nose:
Unless you are planning to get yourself smacked in the face with a piece of four by two this Thursday, I predict that I will be waking up on Friday morning feeling less comfortable than you. Elective surgery; upon the nose.

I have broken it twice, but being broken is only half the story. Huge, it is. In all but the fiercest storm, a small family could huddle safely in its shelter.

... From time to time I would come across an article about rhinoplasty and wonder if it might be for me. I would say to friends : I've been thinking about getting my nose done. And without exception they would say in the polite way people do: no, no, it's fine, you don't need to do that, and I would say No, really. I want them to make it bigger. That would pierce their diplomatic guard; they couldn't help themselves. Embarrassed laughter.

But I would never act on it.
He is now. He's giving up. Thursday morning, he goes under the knife. Not me. If I did, I'd have to abandon my favourite way of explaining libertarianism (one, ironically enough, I pinched from Jim McLay, another chap with a decent hooter). When asked about limits to freedom under libertarianism, I usually reply that under libertarianism, my freedom ends where your nose begins ... which means that some people get more freedom than others.

David Slack has just chosen less freedom for himself. Poor chap. I hope it really hurts. ;^)

LINKS: Twenty ways to insult a nose, Cyrano de Bergerac - Edmond Rostand, via Rice University
Think of the children - David Slack

TAGS: Blog, Humour

Censorship by stealth

Today’s guest commentary comes from an investment banker who must remain anonymous lest he jeopardise his firm’s position and, consequently, his career.

From the NBR: Air NZ slapped with $600,000 fine

Air New Zealand has been ordered to pay $600,000 in fines and nearly $65,000 in costs by the Comm[unist] Commission. The airline was prosecuted for misleading customers about the real price of its airfares. The Commission says the penalty is one of the highest ever imposed under the Fair Trading Act for misleading advertising and follows Air New Zealand's conviction on a total of 112 charges brought by the Commission.
Oh but they are full of themselves.

What they don’t say, however, is that Air NZ did tell consumers the full cost of their airfares (you could hardly book a ticket without having to consent to government charges being booked against your credit card). What’s more, it's only proper for Air NZ to compete on prices which they could control – and other airlines were doing the same.

So why else would the government’s bully boys go after Air NZ, and why Air NZ first?

One explanation is that in advertising their fares and govt levies separately, Air NZ exposed just how cheap airfares could be if we didn't have to pay unnecessary govt taxes along with them. But that’s not all that’s worrying in this news article.

In an agreement with the Commission, the airline has undertaken to move to using all-inclusive prices for both its international and domestic airfares.

In her book The God of The Machine, Isabel Paterson pointed out that a state education system would necessarily have to be supportive of the current government structure under which it operated because the bureaucrats in charge would not tolerate dissent from the teachers they controlled.

That same principle applies here. As an 80% govt owned company, Air NZ are hardly likely to stand up for their right to free speech to show how wasteful government is, are they? I scarcely think the largest shareholder would be happy for Air NZ to lambast a department for whom a fellow minister is responsible.

So if this case is now used as a precedent to prosecute other companies (as this other article suggests), we will have one government department able to prosecute private companies based on a precedent contested by what amounts to, well, a prosecution against another government department. And thus we will have seen another pernicious example of what happens when government owns businesses they shouldn't.

Update: And they're already at it: ComCom on the warpath

Kathmandu and Etop accused of false advertising

Kathmandu and Auckland Parallel importer Etop are the latest companies caught up in the Commerce Commission's blitz on false advertising.

I went to the Communist Commission's website to find out what they advertise themselves as doing. Here's what:

The Commerce Commission enforces legislation that promotes competition in New Zealand markets and prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct by traders. The Commission also enforces a number of pieces of legislation specific to the telecommunications, dairy and electricity industries. In ensuring compliance with the legislation it enforces, the Commission undertakes investigation and where appropriate takes court action; considers applications for authorisation in relation to anti-competitive behaviour and mergers; and makes regulatory decisions relating to access to telecommunications networks and assessing compliance with performance thresholds by electricity lines businesses.

We should prosecute them for false advertising:

  • They fail to break up government monopolies or call for their divestiture (where they would face the same capital costs as their competitors);
  • They fail to recommend the abolition of legislation that prevents small companies being able to compete with big companies (the RMA, the OSHA, corporate taxes);
  • In telecommunications and other industries, they penalise the most competitive company and keep less competitive companies alive (and their vocal - or, more accurately, nasal – CEOs in employment) through advocating corporate pork policies;
  • They delay mergers from which operational synergies can be gained, thereby raising costs, lowering wages and profits and thus capital accumulation and wages again; and
  • They raise investment uncertainty and thus capital costs and investment hurdle rates, such that new services that might benefit consumers are still born, never to see the light of day.

Quite simply, they are the legislative manifestation of the tall-poppy-syndrome - they attack any big private business and do nothing meaningful to the protected positions of bloated, wasteful, bullying government organisations.

TAGS: Economics, Politics-NZ

New Urban Design Commissar for Auckland

It's not often you meet a real-life 'Jeremy.' Here's one here, a pom called Ludo Campbell-Reid (picture below) who's just landed in Auckland to take up the new position of 'Group Manager Urban Design' at Auckland City Council.

Yes, Virginia, he's a bureaucrat. An Urban Design Commissar. The head of Auckland City Council's Official Taste Panel.

As he proudly told the Herald, he's here to tell us all what we can and can't build in Auckland city. People don't ask to run their design ideas past people like Ludo, they're forced to if they want any chance of seeing them built. I posted a while back one architect's account of what dealing with the Jeremys and Ludos of the world is like. And I posted when this new job was announced what I thought about it, and I asked if there was any way this building might ever get past the Taste Panel that Ludo is here to head up.

He and Jackie Wilkinson should get on like a house on fire.

Ludo and his colleagues might like to read Thomas Sowell's Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as the Basis for Social Policy. I expect he'll recognise himself and his colleagues within Sowell's pages. Some excerpts:
Everyone is for a beneficial outcome; they simply define it in radically different terms. Everyone is a "progressive" by his own lights. That the anointed believe that this label differentiates themselves from other people is one of a number of symptoms of their naive narcissism...

In their haste to be wiser and nobler than others, the anointed have misconceived two basic issues. They seem to assume (1) that they have more knowledge than the average member of the benighted and (2) that this is the relevant comparison. The real comparison, however, is not between the knowledge possessed by the average member of the educated elite versus the average member of the general public, but rather the total direct knowledge brought to bear though social processes (the competition of the marketplace, social sorting, etc.), involving millions of people, versus the secondhand knowledge of generalities possessed by a smaller elite group...

The presumed irrationality of the public is a pattern running through many, if not most or all, of the great crusades of the anointed in the twentieth century--regardless of the subject matter of the crusade or the field in which it arises. Whether the issue has been 'overpopulation,' Keynesian economics, criminal justice, or natural resource exhaustion, a key assumption has been that the public is so irrational that the superior wisdom of the anointed must be imposed, in order to avert disaster. The anointed do not simply happen to have a disdain for the public. Such disdain is an integral part of their vision, for the central feature of that vision is preemption of the decisions of others...

In their zeal for particular kinds of decisions to be made, those with the vision of the anointed seldom consider the nature of the process by which decisions are made. Often what they propose amounts to third-party decision making by people who pay no cost for being wrong--surely one of the least promising ways of reaching decisions satisfactory to those who must live with the consequences...
LINKS: Englishman with designs on city - NZ Herald
Architect vs bureaucrats - Not PC
Mediocrity and medding announced by Mother Hubbard - Not PC
Ms A. Presley gets community service - Not PC
Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim - Not PC

TAGS: Auckland, Urban Design, Politics, Bureaucracy, Cartoons

The Bridge at Courbevoie - Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat. The Bridge at Courbevoie. 1886-87.

A world of depth and three dimension created just with points of colour. Click on the enlargement to see just how subtle is the illusion, and how skilful the craft.


Monday, 19 June 2006

An Objectivist tiger in a vegetarian cafe

Talking once about the likelihood of a successful entrepreneur continuing to produce under new regulation that shackled him, Ayn Rand said he'd be "like a tiger in a vegetarian cafe." As you might guess, this was not intended as a positive metaphor. Rand was not a vegetarian, and was dismissive of those who were.

Her loss.

But it turns out there are increasing numbers of Ayn Rand enthusiasts who are vegetarian, so where better to open "a vegetarian refuge for Ayn Rand fans" than in New York, the city with everything. Story here about what might seem the ultimate in niche markets.
The slogan over the café door: EAT OBJECTIVELY, LIVE RICH. Brandon serves juice (“The Howard Roark” is carrot and ginger) and “Full of Thought” salads and will offer free Wi-Fi and a full collection of Rand’s works. He’s also going to stencil Rand quotes on the walls.

Brandon says, “This really is a fountainhead for me,” from which his other projects (including a plan to “revolutionize real estate”) will flow.
LINK: The Soda Fountainhead - NY Metro

TAGS: Objectivism

It's privatisation, Jim, but not as we'd like it

Why have State-Owned Enterprises been given the green light to "privatise new ventures"? As Write Ups asks, why are SOE's even thinking about expanding by privatisation when they should themselves be sold off as a matter of priority?

Good question.

LINK: Privatising new SOE enterprises - Write Ups

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Privatisation

Turning kiwis into entrepreneurial tigers

Prosperity comes from capital, freedom and the inventive and creative use of the human mind. At the intersection of all three is the concept of entrepreneurship, as Frederic Sautet and Israel Kirzner explain in a new paper:
Entrepreneurship fundamentally is not about business start-ups. It derives from the creative power of the human mind and consists of the discovery of profitable ideas that enable market actors to exploit new, socially beneficial gains from trade. As such, entrepreneurship is the driving force of the market, and it makes progress and sustained prosperity possible.

Israel Kirzner and I explain that entrepreneurship matters more to individual wellbeing than resources. As long as entrepreneurial activity is free to operate, economic systems are very resilient; they can adjust to all sorts of problems. However, when entrepreneurial discovery is stifled, resilience disappears and poverty increases.
Unlike Austrian economics, conventional economics downgrades and often ignores the role of entrepreneurs in wealth creation. And as Frederic Sautet points out, New Zealand has too often done the same. In a report prepared for the Business Roundtable, Sautet answers the question Why Have Kiwis Not Become Tigers?: Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Economic Performance in New Zealand. NZBR have the full report as a PDF download here. Sautet summarises for the Herald here. He concludes:
The West became rich not because of geographical advantages or natural resources but because of the quality of its institutions which enabled people to become entrepreneurs by betting on their ideas.
Modest growth [in New Zealand] is not the result of an overdose of economic reforms or bad cultural attitudes. New Zealand has not become a growth dynamo because the reforms did not go beyond standard OECD practice, and have not been carried forward in a stable, predictable way.
As Martin Wolf put it in the
'Financial Times' in November 2004: "It is simply wrong to describe [New Zealand's] reforms as delivering a laissez-faire paradise. The end point is, rather, a reasonably deregulated, competitive market economy, with prudent monetary and fiscal policies and a better-run government."
A "reasonably deregulated competitive market economy" however, is not enough to generate a high rate of growth in income per capita. The only way to achieve better performance is to improve the institutional environment in which entrepreneurial activity takes place.
If Kiwis are to become tigers, a rollback of recent trends towards bigger government and greater regulation, and the resumption of a programme of market-oriented reforms to encourage and reward entrepreneurial success, are required.
LINKS: The Nature and role of entrepreneurship in markets: Implications for policy - Israel Kirzner and Frederic Sautet, Mercatus Policy Center
Why Have Kiwis Not Become Tigers?: Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Economic Performance in New Zealand - Frederic Sautet, NZ Business Roundtable
Kiwis into tigers - hardly likely - Frederic Sautet, NZ Herald
Why have kiwis not become tigers? - Frederic Sautet, The Austrian Economist

TAGS: Economics, New_Zealand, Politics-NZ

Sunday, 18 June 2006

Open immigration, Si! Open borders, No!

Open immigration, Si! Open borders, No!

Sixth Column makes the argument for the difference here.

Lindsay Perigo: Wankers, wowsers, waiting lists and Islamofascists

Today's Radio Live editorial from Lindsay Perigo, on air now until 4pm (NZ time). Join Lindsay either by listening at your local frequency (check here), or by listening online.

Ronald Reagan used to tell the story, though not to Mikhail Gorbachev, of the fellow in the late unlamented Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, who bought a car. He was told by a clerk behind a desk that delivery would be seven years three months and five days away. “Morning or afternoon?” asked the buyer. “Morning or afternoon?” echoed the clerk … what difference does it make when it’s seven years three months and five days away?” “Well,” said the buyer, “it has to be the afternoon. The plumber’s coming in the morning.”

That’s about what it’s like now in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa. No, you don’t have to wait for a plumber. You don’t have to queue for bread. There’s no toilet paper shortage. You can buy a CD of your choice—or computer, or book, or mobile phone, or TV, or car, or pair of shoes—pretty well straight away, because these things are produced and supplied by private enterprise, for a profit. In the old USSR they were produced, if at all, by Nanny State, supposedly for service—and service was surly or non-existent. Here in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa, Nanny State runs the electricity system. Nanny State’s Transpower operates the national grid, overseen by Nanny State’s Electricity Commission and Nanny State’s Commerce Commission. What do they give us? Blackouts. Blackouts without back-ups. This supposedly First World country’s biggest city was without power for a day because supply was literally hanging by a thread, which snapped. Nanny State’s Resource Management ACT is one of the reasons our grid is on a par with Chernobyl. The Beehive Commissars are promising reports, reviews and revamps. Be very afraid.

Here in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa, Nanny State runs the health system. What does she give us? Waiting lists. How does she reduce the waiting lists? By tearing them up! You don’t get your surgery but you’re no longer on a waiting list because Nanny says you’re not. She’s sent you back to your GP. Now isn’t that reassuring when you’ve got skin cancer. Fat lot of use your GP is there, but Nanny is saying you have to wait till your tumour is really big, by which time it’s more difficult to remove and will probably have metastasised. Nanny’s die-while-you-wait health system is also currently serving up chronic staff shortages and, of course, strikes. Be very … healthy.

Did someone say RMA? Here in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa, property developer Dave Henderson, the man who beat the IRD, was told he couldn’t keep the sign, “fivemile.co.nz” he had had mown into a paddock on his Frankton Flats land. He didn’t have resource consent, and could be jailed for two years or fined $200,000. He had mown the sign into the grass because he’d become sick of waiting for Nanny State’s Transit New Zealand and her local bossyboots CivicCorp to decide how big a conventional sign he could erect. Now, the Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive has magnanimously declined to seek Mr Henderson’s imprisonment and agreed to let the sign stay until it grows over naturally. For Mr Henderson to have a permanent sign he would have had to seek the community’s agreement. We’re waiting for the Queenstown Lakes District Council to take over all the land in its jurisdiction outright, and bring back the glory days of Stalin’s collectives, here in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Aotearoa. Be very fat.

Or might that be … the Islamic Republic of Aotearoa? Abu Bakar Bashir, the cockroach cleric who inspired the Bali bombings, had a message for Australian Prime Minister John Howard when he came out of jail this week: become a Muslim or burn in hell. This to a crowd of thousands of fellow Islamo-fascists screaming and flailing and generally doing what they do so well—behave like crazed monsters. Yes, that was Indonesia, and he was taunting Australia’s Prime Minister, not ours. But let us not forget that the Islamo-fascists over the ditch have demanded Sharia Law be implemented there, and our lone Muslim MP has said it would be proper to stone homosexuals to death. How long before the deeply stupid but vicious and insistent voice of Islamo-fascism is raised concertedly here? Islam is the locus of totalitarian evil in the modern world—and the price of liberty is eternal paranoia. Our Soviet Socialist Republic at least allows a significant degree of free speech still, such as mine right now. An Islamic Republic would allow none, and I and many of you would be beheaded by these super-superstitious savages. Be very alert.

Lindsay Perigo on Radio Live—0800 723 465.

TAGS: Religion, Free_Speech, War, RMA, Politics-NZ, Health

Saturday, 17 June 2006

Global warming and consensus science - the wreckage of the consensus

There was a time when scientists looked for facts, drew conclusions based on logic and the evidence before them, and were happy to challenge superstition and prevailing myths by resting on their science. Scientists such as Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein sought to explain and integrate the broadest range of observable facts by means of reason and the use of the scientific method

Sadly, those days are over. For some time now, according to philosophers of science, scientists have beeen working in a 'scientific paradigm' in which the 'paradigm' is said to be more important than the science. This is, if you like, subjective science, in which the more people who agree with an idea -- the more consensus that builds around a notion -- then the more scientifically successful that notion is considered to be. This is in contrast to the idea that the more facts explained by an hypothesis, and the more comprehensive the testing of that hypothesis, the more successful it is.

Consensus is now king, as Terence Corcoran explains in Canada's National Post:
Throughout the 20th century, science was overwhelmed by the sociology of science and "sociological explanations of knowledge." At the extreme, we end up with the idea that there are no facts and nothing is verifiable. "Customs and conventions are seen as the creations of human agents, actively negotiated and actively sustained, under the collective control of those who initially negotiate them.... Scientific knowledge is seen as customarily accepted belief."
Ed Younkins explains how this post-modern science fits into post-modern discourse:
Postmodernism encompasses the idea that people tell stories in order to explain the world. None of these stories is reality but are simply representations of reality based on incomplete and often inaccurate information. There are a variety of socially constructed realities, belief systems, and stories that attempt to explain the world. People construct stories that seem to fit the information at their disposal. This is analogous to Thomas Kuhn's idea of paradigm shifts in science. When experiments yield evidence that does not fit the reigning paradigm, then eventually a new paradigm that better explains the evidence at hand is adopted.
But note that at no time does the post-modern consensus scientist take a view on facts as such. The paradigm does not seek to explain reality, he seeks only to fit with or to build a consensus. Consensus is the new reality.

As Corcoran explains, the highest profile example of this particular view of science is seen in the sciecnce of global warming, where 'consensus' is seen to outweigh scientific findings that don't fit the prevailing model. Rather than seek to integrate and explain new and troublesome facts, the 'consensus scientist' chooses instead to ignore them as irrelevant, and to paint them as outside the consensus. After all if they don't fit the 'consensus,' how could they be relevant?
In short, under the new authoritarian science based on consensus, science doesn't matter much any more. If one scientist's 1,000-year chart showing rising global temperatures is based on bad data, it doesn't matter because we still otherwise have a consensus. If a polar bear expert says polar bears appear to be thriving, thus disproving a popular climate theory, the expert and his numbers are dismissed as being outside the consensus. If studies show solar fluctuations rather than carbon emissions may be causing climate change, these are damned as relics of the old scientific method. If ice caps are not all melting, with some even getting larger, the evidence is ridiculed and condemned. We have a consensus, and this contradictory science is just noise from the skeptical fringe.
And as we all know, the skeptical fringe are all lunatics in the pay of the oil companies anyway. Read on here.

LINKS: Climate Consensus and the end of science - Terence Corcoran, National Post
Consensus science - Wikipedia
Paradigm shift - Wikipedia
The plague of post-modernism - Ed Younkins, Le Quebecois Libre

TAGS: Science, Philosophy, Global_Warming

Friday, 16 June 2006

Beer O'Clock: Chimay

Beer O'Clock required a step up in quality after last week's beer [if you can actually call Skol Super a beer, Ed.] This week then, Stu from Real Beer steps up to the plate with your recommendation for Friday night.

Chimay is town but the name is more well known for the famous Red, White and Blue beers that are brewed there. Brewed by Trappist monks who -- unlike most "cap in hand" religious orders -- carve out a very decent living by producing these three delicious beers as well as four cheeses. You could write all day about these beers and their history, and many people have, but it's really best to just drink them.

Red (known as 'Premiere') is a dark copper colour and weighs in at the relatively lightweight 7%. Coming in a 750ml burgundy style bottle, this beer has plenty of berry fruit and woody spice on the nose and palate, with a good hop bitterness in the finish.

White (aka 'Cinq Cents') at 8% is much paler to look at and a lot drier in the mouth. Some breadiness and more spices, from the distinctive house yeast, blend well with tart fruit and bitter hops to make a it lovely aperitif.

Blue (aka 'Grande Reserve'), at a fairly stiff 9%, has a stunning vinous fruitiness that the brewers liken to Zinfandel. I also get whisky-drenched fruit cake on the nose, caramelised malt and soft spices in the mouth. It's lovely rounded softness makes it my favourite of the three, and is as equally suitable to quiet reflection as it is to jubilation.

The beers are mostly available in beautiful, and quite distinctive 330ml and 750ml bottles -- so there is no need to hide them in a brown paper bag like some other high alcohol beers we could [and have] mentioned. The 750ml bottles are corked and will develop different characteristics with age, assuming you are patient enough to wait. Let these larger bottles vent just a little after opening.

Great beer can be hard to find but these ones are available on the shelves of supermarkets, bottle stores and Belgian-themed bars all over the country. Lucky for us. And lucky for you.

Slainte mhath

TAGS: Beer_&_Elsewhere


If you've ever liked Dr Feelgood, OR you thought you'd never hear music out of Tauranga, OR you just like your R'n'B turned up to eleven -- Maximum R'n'B, that is -- then check out this clip of Tauranga band Brilleaux. Brilliant. First person to post the link between the band's name and Dr Feelgood gets, well, a loud cheer -- and maybe a little something more, especially if you also post it to this chap.

LINKS: Brilleaux - official band website
Brilleaux live on TV1 - You Tube
Tomahawk Kid

TAGS: Music, New_Zealand

Anti-abortion is anti-life

"The recent ban on abortion in South Dakota is a victory for the "pro-life" movement--and thus, anti-abortionists claim, a victory for "the sanctity of human life." But is it?"

Writer Christian Beenfeldt says "No." And I agree with him. Says the unfortunately mis-named Christian:
The "pro-life" movement is not a defender of human life--it is, in fact, a profound enemy of actual human life and happiness. Its goal is to turn women into breeding mares whose body is owned by the state and whose rights, health and pursuit of happiness are sacrificed en masse --all in the name of dogmatic sacrifice to the pre-human.
And he's right, isn't he.

LINKS: Anti-abortion 'pro-life' movement is anti-life - Christian Beenfeldt, Capitalism Magazine

TAGS: Religion, Ethics, Politics-US

What about those Scientologists, eh?

From the wacko-watch files: Rolling Stone magazine has a story that The Szasz Blog says unlocks "the complex code of America's most mysterious religion."

But here's a question: everyone but Tom Cruise knows how silly Scientologists' beliefs and practices are; but why are they any less silly than the beliefs and practices of the mainstream

LINKS: Inside Scientology - Rolling Stone

TAGS: Religion, Nonsense

Gimme that new kind of religion

Oh yes, while we're mentioning religions, how about that other faith-based religion that dominates so much political, academic and (unfortunately) scientific discourse.

I refer, of course, to the faith-based religion of doomsday environmentalism, which Wesley Pruden notes Al Gore (pictured right) has just joined in the position of "televangelist for the First Church of the Warming Globe."

Says libertarian 20/20 reporter John Stossel,
Media coverage of environmental regulators makes them look like dispassionate scientists. But too often they are dangerous religious fanatics.
But Stossell's only a reporter, so what would he know. ;^)

LINKS: The Church Lady, with a hot flash - Wesley Pruden, Jewish World Review
Religious fanatics terrize American farmers - John Stossel,
Jewish World Review
Holy smoke and mirrors - Cox and Forkum

TAGS: Religion, Environment, Global_Warming, Cartoons

The cycle of life, for a blogger

I'm sure quite a few bloggers will be able to relate to this.

[Classic Cartoon by Cox and Forkum]

TAGS: Cartoons, Blog, Humour

Lament for Icarus - Herbert Draper


Thursday, 15 June 2006

Becky wants to knock her school down

A young Irish girl has the solution for all those horrible factory schools: knock the buggers down. She's making a start on her own school in Dublin: "Can you make sure all me teachers are inside when you knock it down . . . nobody likes them . . . But tell me, when the school falls down, will it make a crash or a wallop?" "As we say in Belfast, it'll make a big beng!" Listen here. Priceless. [Comes courtesy of the Edge radio station.]

If only young Becky went to a decent school: maybe one like the Hershey Montessori Farm School in Ohio; or Athena Montessori College in Wellington. Ah well. At least the pur wee t'ing has a solution.

LINKS: Becky from Dublin - MP3 Audio
Hershey Montessori Farm School, Huntsburg, Ohio
Athena Montessori College, Willis St, Wellington

TAGS: Humour, Education, Wellington

More power to the people

Transpower lacks capital, and like the other state-owned energy trusts it will continue to lack capital just as long as it remains state-owned. And without capital, there is no investment -- and without investment . . . well, you saw what happened on Monday.

The answer is to privatise: as Liberty Scott summarises, "Transpower lacks capital - the government wont provide it - so the private sector should." Here's how:
49% of Transpower should be privatised - sold to a single buyer or consortium. This would inject new capital into the company, see a revitalised board (with privately chosen businesspeople not politically chosen ones) and wipe some more public debt (reducing interest payments and giving more room for tax cuts).

The remaining 51% should be distributed as shares to all citizens equally . . .
As it happens, I agree with him. And as it happens, so too does Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton -- who would have thought. "Sell Transpower to better secure Auckland's power," says Bernard, and based on the sorry record of state-ownership one can only agree with him.

LINKS: Power cuts - Liberty Scott
Sell Transpower to better secure Auckland's power - Bernard Darnton, Libertarianz

TAGS: Privatisation, Energy, Politics-NZ, Auckland

Feet on the ground, and their hand in your pocket

Elliot has had enough. The Kiwibank ads are enough to make him vomit; all he can think of when he sees them is the $138,000,000 he and other taxpayers have put in so that the bank and Jims Neanderton and Bolger can boast about 'how they've helped the little guy' -- after they've stuck their hand in his pocket first, and after having taken those millions out of the investment market -- where it would by now have been many more millions -- just to prop up their stupid ego-driven scheme.

You'd think if they weanted to keep their 'feet on the ground' they'd at least remember where their wedge is coming from, and who's paying for their nauseating moment in the scum sun.

Check out their year-on-year financial position, which Elliot has conveniently summarised, and realise just how much more capital could have been made from that wedge if it hadn't been poured down the Two Jim's drain. I do declare, it's enough to make you want to vomit.

LINKS: Kiwibank makes me VOMIT! - Elliot Who?

Economics, Politics-NZ


There are people -- and I do have this on good authority -- who relish eating something called a s'more. A s'more is, and here I paraphrase, some savoury-looking crackers, between which you've sandwiched a chocolate bar and some melted marshallow. That's a pair of 'em there on the right.

That's a s'more. That's something you're supposed to eat. And enjoy. And that's from the Only in America files -- the place that invented the Turducken -- which is, I'm sorry to say, a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. Sheesh. Have these people never heard of such down-home delicacies as vegemite and potato chip rolls? Or deep-fried Mars Bars?

LINKS: For the some things are better left a fantasy file - Ultrablog
S'more - Wikipedia


Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Selwyn interviewed on sedition

Tim Selwyn, the man convicted of sedition -- sedition; in peacetime; in 2006! --for issuing a somewhat unconventional press release explaining why he broke Helen Clark's window just finished a twelve-minute interview on the verdict on bFM's Wire. Link here. My own comment from last week here on the judgement, and the Crown's choice to take this to trial.

Given that a jury gets to estimate a defendant from their demeanour, and some of you have questioned Tim's judgement, it should be worth a listen if you want to pass judgement yourself, or at least inform the judgement you have.

LINKS: Interview: José Barbosa and Tim Selwyn - bFM Wire
Sedition verdict gives new meaning to Helengrad - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

Politics-NZ, Free_Speech

Another dangerous idea infecting classrooms

Scientist Travis Norsen has a warning about "a dangerous enemy [that] has infiltrated our science classrooms and is infecting our students’ minds."
The enemy is a profoundly unscientific theory masquerading as legitimate science. Its presence in the science classroom blurs the distinction between real science and arbitrary dogma and “makes students stupid” by leaving them less able to distinguish reasonable ideas from unreasonable ones – a skill that is surely one of the main goals of teaching science in the first place. You probably suspect the enemy I'm talking about is Intelligent Design . . .

The enemy I'm worried about is something else – something just as unscientific as Intelligent Design, but more dangerous because it is not widely recognized as such: the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. . . This may seem like a rather technical issue that physicists should straighten out for themselves, an issue that those outside of physics shouldn't or needn't worry about. But the wider academic community – and, indeed, society at large – has a legitimate interest and stake in this issue, just as it has a legitimate interest and stake in the debate over Intelligent Design. Like Intelligent Design, Copenhagen quantum mechanics “makes students stupid.” Like ID, it probably has no place in college science classrooms.
Strong words. Go here and see if he can back them up.

LINKS: Unintelligent design, Part 1 - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Intelligent design in the physics classroom? - Travis Norsen, Journal of the American Physical Society, July 2006
Travis Norsen's Objective Science site
Cartoons by Nick Kim

Science, Education


Here's an opportunity for you. For the confused and bemused, Trevor at New Zeal offers to answer your questions on capitalism -- the first ten polite questions get the polite Trevor treatment. Says Trev:
If you're a socialist, throw me a question on capitalism that you just know I won't be able to answer. Expose me for the heartless capitalist bastard that I am.

If you're pro market, throw me a question that somebody has stumped you on, or you just can't seem to figure out. Find out if the free market is really worth fighting for.

If you're undecided or just curious, throw me a question about capitalism/free markets or the functioning of a free society that puzzles you. Find out if the Capitalists really do have the answers.
Go ahead. Find out. But get in quick because those first ten spots are already going quickly. As Harry Binswanger once observed, when you ask a question of two Objectivists you'll get at least three different answers -- so I'll watch with interest to see if his answers match my own.

LINK: Throw Trev your curly ones - New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)

TAGS: Economics, Libertarianism

Why Brazil Will Always Beat Turkey

The World Cup. The soccer World Cup. Not my thing. Not my thing at all. Grown men poking a ball languidly around a pitch and falling over in agony when someone else comes near them. 0-0 draws. Five seconds or so of 'highlights' in ninety minutes of playing time. No wonder most of the action happens on the terraces. Which leads me to this post from the Tomahawk Kid explaining Why Brazil Will Always Beat Turkey. It's something to do with sense-of-life, joie de vivre, and ... well . . . a couple of other rather nice things.

LINK: The Football World Cup - Tomahawk Kid

TAGS: Sport

Montessori, the rational alternative

As an enthusiast for the Montessori method of education, I get a little annoyed when the Montessori philosophy of 'freedom within a prepared environment' is mis-characterised as un-schooling, as I've seen recently from someone who should know better.

It's about as far from the truth as it's possible to be. In fact, it's downright insulting.

Montessori education is not 'chalk-and-talk' - except when it needs to be, such as in some aspects of the adolescent programme -- instead it sees teachers as guides who direct children to the 'prepared environment' of the classroom, within which they will find materials from each part of the curriculum that allows them to teach themselves. Such is the unique nature of the Montessori materials, and the Montessori classroom. You can get an idea of the Montessori pre-school classroom in this video transcipt. And an example of how the materials work for one part of the curriculum, maths, can be found here.

Dr Maria Montessori began her work in education almost by accident. Graduating as a doctor in 1896, she was assigned to care for retarded children, for whom she devised a method of education that allowed them to sit, and to pass very well, the state education exam. Praised for her mentally-deficient charges doing so well, Montessori was more concerned with why so-called 'normal' children were doing so badly. Thus, her life's work began. The Montessori Method is the result.

The Montessori classroom -- what Montessorians call The Children's House -- is as unlike a 'normal' classroom as it's possible to be. Children work quietly and in full focus, on their own or in small groups. Work is self-selected, self-completed, and self-cleaned up afterwards. The prevailing classroom management technique is respect for the children, and the idea: "Help me do it by myself." Explains one Montessorian, "At no times does a Montessori child sit passively. A Montessori child needs to learn to be in focus, to make choices, to take responsibility for her own learning, and to explore her natural curiosity. Understanding becomes a pleasure, not a duty." The Method and the Montessori materials are the means through which this is achieved.

The materials are unique to Montessori, and -- almost unique to any educational philosophy -- they fully reflect the hierarchy of knowledge that is at the basis of learning. As Montessorian Marsha Enright explains,
Like all thinkers in the Aristotelian tradition, Montessori recognized that the senses must be educated first in the development of the intellect. Consequently, she created a vast array of special learning materials from which concepts could be abstracted and through which they could be concretized. In recognition of the independent nature of the developing intellect, these materials are self-correcting—that is, from their use, the child discovers for himself whether he has the right answer. This feature of her materials encourages the child to be concerned with facts and truth, rather than with what adults say is right or wrong.
I would recommend Marsha Enright's article as an introduction to the Montessori philosophy.

Why is this important? At a time when the state's factory schools approach philosophic and pedagogical bankruptcy, the need for a rational alternative becomes ever more urgent -- Montessori schooling is that rational alternative, as Ayn Rand herself once argued:
The academia/jet-set coalition is attempting to tame the American character by the deliberate breeding of helplessness and resignation-in those incubators of lethargy known as "Progressive" schools, which are dedicated to the task of crippling a child's mind by arresting his cognitive development. (See "The Comprachicos" in my book The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution.) It appears, however, that the "progressive" rich will be the first victims of their own special theories: it is the children of the well-to-do who emerge from expensive nursery schools and colleges as hippies, and destroy the remnants of their paralyzed brains by means of drugs. [NB: This was written before the 'progressives' took over the Teachers Colleges.]

The middle class has created an antidote which is perhaps the most helpful movement of recent years: the spontaneous, unorganized, grass-roots revival of the Montessori system of education -- a system aimed at the development of a child's cognitive, i.e., rational, faculty.
The Montessori Association of New Zealand website will give you an indication of where you may find such a rational alternative for your child. NZ's Maria Montessori Education Foundation (MMEF) has a summary of the history of Montessori in NZ [go here and then click 'New Zealand']. Unfortunately, there are too many 'Monte-something' schools about, (something MMEF are aiming to change with good Montessori training) so do be careful in your choice.

Former head of the Ayn Rand Institute Michael Berliner is also a Montessori educator, and he has bewailed for a long time the misundertanding of the Montessori philosophy, even by its practitioners. Explaining in 1982, he said:
Despite the success of Montessori schools, there is amazingly little understanding of the reasons for that success. As a consequence, the method is either dismissed as nothing more than a series of clever techniques for teaching specific skills, or attempts are made to ground the method in Maria Montessori's personal philosophy, a mixture of Catholicism and Indian mysticism.
At present, the supporters of the Montessori method are unable to defend it against either the educational establishment or compromisers from within Montessori ranks. Teachers and parents need to understand the real philosophic meaning of the Montessori method. Ayn Rand's philosophy makes that understanding possible.
This is true, and Berliner goes on to give a ten-point summary explaining how, specifically, Ayn Rand's philosophy makes it possible. Good reading.

Welcome to the Montessori adventure. Un-schooling it's not.


Education, Philosophy, Objectivism

Who is Peter Cresswell?

Who is Peter Cresswell? That's him on the right. Honest.

Peter (on the right) is a professor of immunobiology and cell biology at Yale. And clearly, I'm not -- that's me, up there on the left.

I'm sure on occasions when friends and colleagues Google him they wonder why such a good microbiologist has such, um, unusual political views. Poor chap.

TAGS: Blog
Tags: Economics Education

Einstein Tower - Eric Mendelsohn

The Einstein Tower in Potsdam, designed by architect Eric Mendelsohn in the 1920s as an observatory for the sun, and as a tribute to a great scientist-- a perfect example of the expressionist architecture of the period that was somewhat overshadowed by fashion, and that sadly became buried by political circumstances.

TAGS: Architecture, History-Twentieth_Century

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

World hears of NZ's third world power shambles

The shabby little secret of our shabby infrastructure has gone worldwide to potential tourists and investors. I'll risk being labelled "unpatriotic" for pointing out these reports from offshore:

NZealand shares close lower in thin trade dampened by Auckland power outage
Power restored in Auckland
People's Daily Online, China
Huge power cut in NZ's Auckland
BBC News
New Zealand's Auckland Has Power Cuts After Storms (Update1)
Storms black out NZ's biggest city
The Age, Melbourne
New Zealand storm gives new meaning to all black
Sydney Morning Herald
Storms black out New Zealand's biggest city
Times of India
Power blackout causes chaos in NZ's capital
Independent Online, South Africa
Storms black out New Zealand's biggest city (Roundup)
Monsters and Critics.com, UK
Storms black out Auckland
Bangkok Post, Thailand
Gale winds cut power to New Zealand's biggest northern city...
San Diego Tribune (AP)

That last story from the American Associated Press is perhaps indicative of all of the international stories on this. It begins: "Gale force winds battering northern New Zealand cut power to the nation's biggest city on Monday..." But that's not true, is it? It wasn't "gale force winds" that blacked out Auckland, was it -- after all, the continental USA knows what "gale force winds" look like, compared to which these were just light breezes. It wasn't high wind, it was sheer bloody incompeteence caused by the politicisation of the power supply.

It happened before, and it won't change until the politicisation of infrastructure changes.

UPDATE: For those who've pointed out that California has had its own power problems, Allow me to point out that California's power industry is not exactly a free market nirvana either, as both George Reisman and Scott Sutton have pointed out. The title of Resiman's article gives teh flavour: 'California Screaming, Under Government Blows.'

And an excellent article in The Free Radical by one Scott Wilson, 'Power for the People?' pointed out that much the same applies to New Zealand's electricity reforms undertaken by Max Backward -- as it's becoming increasingly topical, we might try to get that article back online shortly. It begins:
Now, let’s get something perfectly clear from the off: electricity in New Zealand has NOT been privatised. Got that? Sure, bits of it have been, but a large proportion has been effectively nationalised by stealth. To understand this, one needs to trace the history of electricity reform in the past 15 years...
And concludes:
Privatisation? Not here! Sure, where the vast majority of generators were once in either local government or local trust hands around one third of electricity generation is now in private hands - these include Contact and a number of small generators. But the vast bulk of power generation, over 60%, is now in the hands of central government.

And while a majority of local lines companies are council or community trust-owned, the national grid is still owned by the state.

So does it all work?
Does it? What do you think?

TAGS: Energy, New_Zealand, Politics-NZ

'Why I'm not a conservative'

Vin Suprynowicz explains 'Why I am not a conservative.' Good reading.
What is a "conservative"? A conservative is someone who wants to keep things pretty much as they are, dubbing any major shift in direction a "risky scheme." By that definition, who in Washington today are more conservative than the so-called liberals?
Or who in Helengrad? As he says,
The 19th century definition of liberal -- we now use "classical liberal" to maintain the distinction -- was basically a laissez faire type who favored free trade and sound money. True "liberals" wanted low taxes and not much meddlesome regulation. Sounds modest enough. But anyone who really took those precepts seriously today would have to call for a vast and real reduction in the size and intrusiveness of government at all levels, boarding up all kinds of departments and agencies.
But you don't hear that from too many, if any, of today's liberals, do you? And you don't hear it from the conservatives either -- and if you do it's not followed up by policies that would ever make it happen.
I make no secret [says Vin] of preferring the more consistent smaller-government philosophy of the Libertarians. Though in today's America, the Libertarians (precisely because they threaten to shut down the pork parade, rather than merely diverting it to a new coalition) might poll 4 percent on a good day.
So why is Vin the Libertarian not a conservative? Well, says he in explanation, take for example "Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation -- your quintessential modern "conservative" think tank" -- whose recent article "Curing the conservative crack-up," proposed "six criteria by which conservatives should weigh any proposed government action."
Among his criteria were "Does it make us safer?" and "Does it unify us"?

It's hard to imagine any of the world's worst dictators having any problem eagerly embracing those justifications for their actions.

Freedom often looks dangerous, disorderly and divisive; bureaucratic control and the cops reading our mail, "wanding us down," and/or peering in every window are nearly always sold as "necessary to make us safer." And there sure is a feeling of "unity" as we're herded down those airport cattle chutes or race to mail in our tribute every April 15.

Read on here to find out for sure why Vin is not a conservative. Nor me. And do check out Trev's challenge from last week:
If this country had a libertarian government no legislation or force would impact on any non "mainstream" lifestyle, family arrangement, personal habit or proclivity. All lifestyles would be permitted as long as in living out your desires, you didn't force another to do anything against his or her will. Everybody would be free to live as a communist, a fascist, a vegan, a flat earther, a wife swapper, a gay leather fetishist, a bible believing Christian, a Zoroastrian, a Satanist, a line dancer, a rock star groupie, a heroin addict, a health food fanatic, a Sumo wrestler or a stamp collector. Would the same apply under a Workers Party/Socialist Workers/Socialist Party/Communist Party/Communist League etc government?
Answers on a postcard, please -- or join the debate at Trev's place.
LINKS: Vin Suprynowicz: Why I am not a conservative - Las Vegas Review Journal
What's a libertarian for? - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Some questions for the comrades - New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)

TAGS: Politics, Libertarianism

No power, again.

I was reminded yesterday of that great line from the film The Castle, that "power lines are a reminder of man's ability to generate electricity." Well, they weren't yesterday around New Zealand's largest city, were they? Darkness, traffic lights down, businesses closed and tumbleweed blowing through our major city were a reminder that we have a power infrastructure that is always on the edge of collapse -- a reminder that we have a third world power supply from what seems a third rate power-and-lines company (ie., Transpower, whose line was at fault) combined with a third world regulatory regime.

Transpower, may I remind you is 100% government-owned. I trust all those people who favour state-ownership of infrastructure because 'those greedy private companies could never guarantee supply' will now shut the fuck up. And I hope all those who cheer when the Resource Managament Act (RMA) is used to make construction of infrastructure impossible were happy to spend yesterday in the dark. And perhaps too those who favour the shackling of industry by the Kyoto Protocol might reflect that this is how the shackling of industry looks when it kicks in.

Power is the lifeblood of industry, of technology, of everything that keeps us alive. With the combined 'Anti-Industrial Green Dream Team' of Kyoto the RMA -- and state ownership of infrastructure -- we are in danger of unilaterally cutting off our own blood supply.

As I said during Auckland's last power crisis eight years ago,
The environmentalists’ false claims for disasters that ‘might’ occur will be dwarfed by the disasters that will occur if we continue to blindly accept their rantings. You think that the loss of power to our industrial capital for nine weeks is bad news? Just wait until the Dream Team kicks in - you ain’t seen nothing yet!

. . . The Dream Team’s two players are the Resource Management Act and the Kyoto Protocol: The RMA we know about by now; the Protocol, signed by Simon Upton earlier this year... extracts promises that governments of wealthy, industrial nations will ‘work towards the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions’ - the inescapable by-product of the burning of fossil fuels. Stripped of its worthy glow this means nothing less than a promise for the reduction of industry.

The environmentalists’ anti-development crusade reached its climax in this country with the RMA, an act making the future construction of necessary infrastructure (like power stations and hydro dams) virtually impossible. The anti-energy crusade has reached its climax with the Kyoto Protocol, promising measures to strangle our existing infrastructure (like power stations and industrial plants). [Auckland's 1998] power crisis offers a precursor of what life will be like as a result of these measures - together, these bureaucratic monsters will act like a calicivirus on industry, and on all who depend on industry for their survival; which means all of us," said Libertarianz Environment Spokesman Peter Cresswell [in 1998].

I really do hate saying "I told you so." And I really do remind you too that an environmentalism that doesn't put humans first is not an environmentalism that should be given serious consideration.

UPDATE: I should point out that this shambles will highlight more than one important difference between private and state businesses. One particular leitmotif of private enterprise is that very word, 'enterprise.' When private enterprise stuffs up, those enterprises generally realise their survival depends on finding and fixing the stuff-up ASAP. But when state-owned business stuff up, the emphasis is not on repair and gettign things going, it's on political self-defence, ie., the blame game. Watch all the finger-pointing, and you'll see how success and failure are judged in the game of politics.

TAGS: RMA, Energy, Environment, Religion, Global_Warming